Breaking The Sound Barrier (Part 2)

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March 7, 2017 by alansoh79

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Breaking the SOUND barrier. Because there is NO you or them.

Through my NTU mentees, a journalist from TODAY came to knew about this project, and approached me to seek my inputs on questions he had about employment for deaf Singaporeans today.

1. What were some of the difficulties you faced during job hunt as someone who is hard of hearing? What was some of the feedback, or comments you heard from prospective employers? Has that changed, why or why not?
My response:
First and foremost, I am not born totally deaf. Hence I am not deaf mute.
I am born with a dead right ear, which means I still go to normal schools communicating with people with my left ear until the days when I was a student of ITE Bishan when I had bacterial infection in my left ear. As such I have to wear a hearing aid.
I am effectively bilingual. I can talk to anyone normally.
I did a cochlear implant surgery on my right ear in 2011.
At that point of time, I somehow knew that it will be MORE challenging, should I apply for jobs in future.
I am thankful that SG Enable and SPD employment support division provides me help.
Often in my younger days, I struggled with the dilemma of making my condition known in my CV to be submitted to employers. Because I am worried – Will it blow my chances of being granted a job interview? Being older now, I am more accepting of my disability and thus making it known in my job applications.
Frankly speaking, till today I hesitate to include phone numbers in job applications because what if I could not hear the recruiters well over the phone? Unless the mode of contact is via mobile text messaging.
Having said so, I still have to be honest about my hearing problem.
Interview sessions are for both parties to find out more about each other pertaining the job opening.
My method is – I try to be more comfortable, and perceive the potential employer “as a friend”, which it takes away the stress of “trying too hard to impress the other party”, and just be myself. The other party would also feel more comfortable. Words will come out freely and naturally. If the other party wishes to converse in Mandarin, I am able to switch effortlessly.
I try to do some small talk first to find something in common between us.
Once there is a common interest, there is rapport built and mood becomes more relaxing.
For sure, I must of course do some research on the employer before attending the interview so that I am able to answer his questions.
This is what I learnt from my journalism module when I studied Mass Communications at MDIS. The interview technique.
I guess, the little advantage which I think I have over other Singaporeans with similar condition is that, I can talk things upfront with employers during job interviews, telling them what I can or cannot do, things which interest me, my working style, experiences which I hope to gain etc.
The first question I always asked, is about communication aspect.
Questions like – Are you open to giving work instructions via emails or whatsapp? How often should we communicate face-to-face?
The feedback I got from employers, often is that “you look normal okay”, “you worry too much”, “nothing to worry about communication part since we can have a normal conversation like this”.
If I do not get the job, I would rather choose to think that I don’t fit the requirements than about my hearing disability. 
I don’t cry over spill milk. I just move on.
I sit down, reflect and do something about my employability skills.
This year I intend to upgrade myself academically so that I can deepen my existing knowledge and skills.
The most important thing is, the deaf individual should display a keen interest to learn something new and be humble.
Having that can-do spirit.
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2. What do you think employers today should change, in terms of hiring deaf persons, or persons who are hard of hearing? 
My response:
Like able-bodied Singaporeans, the deaf community have various talents and abilities.
Very often we Singaporeans tend to look at people, passing judgement first on what they cannot do. These days, we become very critical of others.
I urge everyone including employers to look at surrounding people on what they can do first.
This is the biggest take-away I gain, from my previous job at a social enterprise, interacting with special needs workers.
If we give them opportunities, they might surprise you sometimes. Many of them could be raw diamonds, having innate potential to go far in life.
There is always a solution to every problem, if we are willing to pause, and think harder.
Be open-minded.
Be willing to learn the various communication modes with the deaf and hard-of-hearing such as simple sign-language or using Whatsapp (thanks to mobile technology).
They cannot hear well. They are very visual. Employers can give simple instructions in the form of pictures.
Work processes can be redesigned in a way that these deaf employees can do what they are required to do, bypassing their limitations. 
A little job stress is however essential, to make them grow. No pain, no gain.
If they do something well, praise them publicly for job well done. This will further boost their self-confidence.
Best still after sometime, employer can send them for skills-grading courses to enhance their competencies and self-dignity; and with skills certification, they can command a higher take-home pay.
We also need more deaf role models to be highlighted in mass media.
Sharing their stories of how they overcome odds to become what they are today.
This is to change the perceptions of the deaf community in the eyes of employers and Singaporeans alike.

Singapore should be truly an inclusive society where we really LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND.

Let’s lift every Singaporean up together. 

3. Why do you think employers might not be overly keen on hiring deaf people? 
My response:
Very often I believe some employers might think that “they cannot hear, cannot listen to work instructions, need to always look after them, as such they cannot make it.”
Or they might perceive that all members of deaf community are lowly educated, have bad attitudes, cannot handle a single job well.
This is a very flawed perception of them. They can be further trained.
Many of them are nice people.
As such, “Breaking the Sound Barrier” project initiated by Wong Jia Rong and his team aims to correct any misconceptions about the deaf, hoping employers across all sectors in Singapore understand that these special Singaporeans have employable qualities too.
The only little issue is – they cannot hear you well.
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